Three GOP Senate candidates and incumbents in tight races have so far distanced themselves from Mitt Romney's comments that 47 percent of the American public doesn't pay income taxes and is "dependent on government." But on Wednesday, Wisconsin GOP Senate candidate Tommy Thompson broke that trend and stood by his party's presidential nominee.
"I think that that is taken out of context," said Thompson when asked by Fox News about Romney's comment.
"What Gov. Romney is saying is that we'll be willing to help people but they have got to help themselves and they have got to be able to stand up and take what is offered and be able to make something out of it," he said. "I think a much more telling thing is what President Obama is saying, that he wants to redefine and to reassign the profits and the assets from one person to another. The redistribution, I think, is much worse of a position to be in than what Gov. Romney is."
Thompson's defense of Romney separates him from some of his fellow Republican candidates. Sens. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.) have both distanced themselves from Romney, as has Connecticut Senate candidate Linda McMahon.
"That's not the way I view the world," Brown said in response to Romney's remarks. "As someone who grew up in tough circumstances, I know that being on public assistance is not a spot that anyone wants to be in. Too many people today who want to work are being forced into public assistance for lack of jobs."
Thompson has repeatedly agreed with Romney's statement that nearly half of Americans don't pay income taxes.
At the March 2012 Republican caucus in Waukesha, Wis., Thompson said that 50 percent of the public were "not paying taxes." Two months later, in a May GOP Senate debate, he said, "I think it is a real mistake in America that 50 percent of the people, up to 50 percent, don't pay any taxes." And in a July 27 interview with Wiseye, he said, "You know, almost 46 percent of the people, you know, don't pay any income taxes."
While it is inaccurate to say that half of Americans don't pay taxes of any kind, almost half of Americans don't pay federal income taxes, either because they are senior citizens, because they don't make enough in income, or because of deductions that have been championed by both conservatives and liberals. Nearly all Americans do pay taxes in the form of payroll deductions, gas levies and a variety of state and local sales and property taxes.
Thompson's campaign has used the number of people who don't pay income taxes to justify his tax plan, which would lower tax rates for the nation's top 1 percent of earners. In June, Thompson aide Brian Nemoir told PolitiFact that it "better balances the nearly half of all Americans that don't pay income taxes against the nation's top 1 percent of earners."